Firefighting chemical found in sea lion and fur seal pups — ScienceDaily

A chemical that the NSW government has lately partially banned in firefighting has been uncovered in the pups of endangered Australian sea lions and in Australian fur seals.

The getting signifies a different feasible blow to Australian sea lions’ survival. Hookworm and tuberculosis currently threaten their little and diminishing populace, which has fallen by much more than 60 per cent in excess of 4 a long time.

The new research — portion of a very long-phrase wellness study of seals and sea lions in Australia — recognized the substances in animals at many colonies in Victoria and South Australia from 2017 to 2020.

As properly as in pups, the substances (For every- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — ‘PFAS’) had been detected in juvenile animals and in an adult male. There was also evidence of transfer of the substances from moms to newborns.

PFAS have been reported to bring about cancer, reproductive and developmental defects, endocrine disruption and can compromise immune methods. Publicity can manifest by means of many sources including by means of contaminated air, soil and drinking water, and typical family merchandise that contains PFAS. In addition to getting employed in firefighting foam, they are commonly uncovered in stain repellents, polishes, paints and coatings.

The scientists consider the seals and sea lions ingested the substances by means of their fish, crustacean, octopus and squid weight loss plans.

Inspite of South Australia banning the use of PFAS-that contains firefighting foams in 2018, these substances persist and you should not quickly degrade in the setting. They have not been banned in Victoria.

Substantial concentrations

Revealed in Science of the Complete Atmosphere, this is the initial study to report concentrations of PFAS in seals and sea lions in Australia.

PFAS concentrations in some animals had been comparable to these in maritime mammals in the northern hemisphere including southern sea otters and harbour seals.

Specifically large concentrations of the substances had been uncovered in newborns — transferred all through gestation or by way of their mothers’ milk. “This is notably concerning, provided the significance of the developing immune program in neonatal animals,” explained research co-guide, Dr Rachael Gray from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science.

“Whilst it was not feasible to study the direct impacts of PFAS on the wellness of personal animals, the benefits are critical for ongoing monitoring. With the Australian sea lion now mentioned as endangered, and Australian fur seals struggling colony-particular populace declines, it is crucial that we fully grasp all threats to these species, including the position of human-produced substances, if we are to employ successful conservation administration.”

Foods chain implications

The findings have implications for the total food items chain of which the pups are portion, including adult seals and sea lions, fish and even people.

“Due to the fact PFAS very last a very long time, they can turn out to be concentrated within the tissues of living items. This raises the prospective for exposure to other animals in the food items chain, notably best maritime mammal predators like seals and sea lions,” Dr Gray explained.

“There is also the prospective for people to be uncovered to PFAS by ingesting contaminated seafood, consuming contaminated drinking water, or even by means of ingesting food items developed in contaminated soil.

“So, not only do PFAS threaten native endangered species like the Australian sea lion — they could pose a danger to people much too.”


A collaboration among the College of Sydney, National Measurement Institute and Phillip Island Character Parks, the research, mainly undertaken by College of Sydney PhD scholar Shannon Taylor, was partly performed on web site at the animals’ colonies, with later testing of animal livers at the National Measurement Institute in Sydney. The livers had been analysed making use of a complex strategy known as large-efficiency liquid chromatograph/triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. At its most simple, this strategy ionises a molecular compound and then separates and identifies the factors primarily based on their mass-to-charge ratio. In this way, particular substances and their abundance can be calculated.

The endangered Australian sea lion

Dr Rachael Gray and her team of scientists have been conducting globe-course research in South Australia in buy to preserve the endangered sea lion.

The Australian sea lion is the only pinniped species endemic to Australian waters, ranging from the Houtman Abrolhos islands off the west coast of Western Australia to the Webpages Islands in South Australia. The species is endangered, with a decreasing populace development (Worldwide Union for Conservation of Character Red Checklist) from a small baseline attributed to 19th century business sealing.

The little populace dimensions raises the species’ danger of catastrophic disease effects, as witnessed in the New Zealand sea lion where by neonatal septicaemia and meningitis contributed to 58 per cent of pup fatalities among 2006 and 2010.

Hookworm infection gives an current disease tension for the Australian sea lion. Even more, recovery from a major disease effects would be minimal by the species’ small reproductive charge. The the vast majority (eighty two per cent) of pup births manifest in South Australia where by there is dependence on just 8 large breeding colonies, including Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island.

Maria J. Danford

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